Thursday, February 25, 2010

Bjorn Lomborg: Smackdown!

A book is apparently coming out in the relatively near future attacking Bjorn Lomborg's two main books critical of the environmental hysteria of the last few decades, "The Skeptical Environmentalist" and "Cool It".  This book is by Howard Friel and is called "The Lomborg Deception", purporting to debunk what appears to be a series of straw men.

Bravo, Mr. Fiel... Bravo.

What's ridiculous though is that Bjorn Lomborg has already written an excessively persuasive 27-page rebuttal to the book.  When "The Lombord Deception" comes out, I'm sure it will be well received by a number of people in the environmental catastrophe camp.  In fact, one such review has already landed - Newsweek's own Sharon Begley writes:
"I don't want to be as trusting as the reviewers who praised Lomborg's scholarship without (it seems) bothering to check his references, so rather than taking Friel at his word just as they took Lomborg at his, I've done my best to do that checking. Although Friel engages in some bothersome overkill, overall his analysis is compelling. Let me pick three of Lomborg's contentions that Friel pretty much blows out of the water."
Let me rephrase for Ms. Begley... What she was saying was that she didn't want to be as "gullible" as other reporters praising Lomborg's work and not fact-check Mr. Friel, and then proceeds to completely take 100% of Friel as accurate, no questions asked.


This is pretty typical, and let's be honest.  She's a writer for Newsweek.  Does anyone with a brain even read Newsweek?  Jesus that magazine is horrific... I don't even think it's suitable for dentist's offices.


At any rate, I don't need to defend Lomborg because he does so himself in one of the most amazing intellectual & literary smackdowns I've ever had the pleasure of reading.  Not only does it seem that Friel spends nearly the entire book arguing against things that Lomborg didn't actually say, he comes across as hugely incompetent in essentially every single aspect of scholarship.  Included in this are his basic understanding of charts & data tables, his basic mathematical ability and what's most distressing of all for a book dedicated to parsing footnotes and fact-checking - even Friel's research skills seem woefully subpar.

Repeatedly Friel apparently calls out Lomborg for inaccurate citations purely because he wasn't able to find a now 10-year old webpage...  In other words, Friel is either being ridiculously disingenuous or he's a complete n00b at teh interwebz.

I wouldn't be surprised at either...  At any rate, I encourage everyone to read Bjorn Lomborg's masterful takedown in all it's glory here: "A Response... (PDF)"  Now.  Unlike Begley, I make no bones about this "smackdown" conforming to my preordained expectations... But I challenge anyone to read it and not find it utterly persuasive.

More on this at by science correspondent Ron Bailey...  And also video of Lomborg talking about these things below:

The thing I love about Lomborg in general is that he's one of the few voices out there explaining that global warming, while potentially a problem, is solvable not by huge restrictions in liberty and massive new, centralized government control over everything - but by making sure people have the opportunity to use their available resources in ways that benefit them.  Unfortunately, this doesn't jive well with the apparent mission of most non-skeptical environmentalists, for far too many of whom, no amount of tyranny will ever be too much to accept in the name of "saving the planet".

The trouble, of course, is that like other economically illiterate morons, these folks don't grasp the consequences of the policies that they advocate on real human beings.  As a result, they don't really get how a government fix-all type solution works against the interests of most people (by willfully supplanting individual actions based on distinct, individual goals and dreams with forced collective ones based solely on the views of a few). Bjorn mentions water resources... People are increasingly worried that there will be a massive "water crisis" that plagues the world.

But who manages that, in virtually every single country on the planet?  Private individuals?  Hell no!

Governments manage water resources...  And they do an abysmal job, virtually without exception.  Part of it stems from a poor comprehension of basic economics, and thus we have a situation that essentially amounts to price-controls on water across the board.  What's this do?  Keeps the price of water near $0, for one thing... So you might think, "Fabulous, water should be free!" - but that artificial price leads people to obvious over-consumption.  Go figure...  However, people like Friel and many others, seem to be living under the delusion that you can do things to manipulate (and screw up) the economy with no negative side-effects, especially on things like the unemployment-rate.Lomborg, by contrast, always seems to realize that - so for him, it's about analyzing the trade-offs.

Lomborg's "radical" conclusions - the ones that get books like "The Lomborg Deception" written - are simply that 1. The environment and the human condition are improving on the whole, across the planet and have been for decades (truth). 2. It's better to be prosperous, free and solve problems with innovation than it is to blindly  destroy future growth & wealth in the name of an environmental crusade.

One would think that with the earthquake in Haiti being so recent in everyone's memory, people would wake up to the fact that natural disasters with seriously devastating effects tend to be devastating not because they were many magnitudes more severe than any previous disaster, but because the people effected are impoverished, have no accumulated wealth, and are thus incapable of preparing for or mitigating the catastrophe.  In fact, there have been a number of similarly severe earthquakes in my current home state of California...  Yet, in no case have hundreds of thousands been killed or have we seen half a million casualties.


Hint: It's not luck... Nor is it corrupt government officials making special deals with their buddies and looting the public.  (Point of fact; California's own situation with politicians looting the public treasury and putting increasingly painful burdens on the citizens here will impair our future ability to protect ourselves in the same way that Haiti's kleptocracy has kept the people impoverished for decades... That will be a fun time...)

Seriously though... Read the smack down, before I go permanently veering wildly off-topic.  It's great, credible, and worth the read.


Anonymous said...

Isn't AGW just a ploy to increase government intrusion in one way or another in our lives? I recommend Vaclav Klaus' Blue Planet in Green Shackles as a must read eye opener. Environmentalism is basically a new form of radical collectivism. Also

Sean W. Malone said...

My personal opinion is possible to infer from most of my writings on the subject, but I actually don't think that necessarily AGW is wrong, and I'm quite convinced the Earth has successfully heated up since the last ice age.

None of that is stuff I find very controversial... To be honest, I would assume humans have *some* effect on the environment, we are a big part of the planet after all.

But that really isn't the point.

The POLICY "solution" being offered by most is *exactly* what you said: A ploy to increase government intrusion and a form of radical collectivism.

And that brings me to my main complaint about the global warming crowd - Most of their policy arguments are completely and utterly non sequitur from the facts of the science.

Just because the Earth is getting warmer doesn't mean that a smart, cost-beneficial or moral solution is to force billions of people into new and radical economic limitations and cripple global energy production (any more than it already is). Lives will be destroyed unnecessarily, and real progress will be halted as the forces of tyranny gain control over yet more aspects of people's daily lives.

So yeah... Not a fan.